New business opens amid Covid lockdowns

The Sister Mare Louise cafe. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

As many businesses remain closed during the latest lockdown, one new business has opened its doors for the very first time.

A new cafe in Healesville started trading on Wednesday 2 June, in the midst of Victoria’s initial seven day circuit breaker lockdown and on the same day that news came through of the lockdown being extended. Despite this, the cafe was ready to serve takeaway coffees and meals.

Everyone knows how seriously Melburnians take their coffee, maybe even religiously, as the cafe has taken over the former church site previously used by the Salvation Army. The business is sticking with the religious theme operating as ‘Sister Mary Louise’.

And despite having no religious affiliation, cafe owners Andy and Mitch Stuart will be praying for a swift end to the current lockdown so they can serve diners in the refurbished space. The pair were in good spirits on their opening day as locals flocked to support their venture that has been about 17 months in the making.

“It’s not how we wanted to open our new business, but it’s been surprisingly busy,” Andy said. “We really appreciate all the locals coming in and we’ve been way busier than we anticipated.”

“Even on Instagram and social media, yesterday we had people writing ‘see you tomorrow at 8am’, which is exciting for us and really lovely,” Mitch said.

It’s not the first time the pair had some unfortunate timing as they purchased the site in February last year, just a month shy of the first Covid-19 lockdown.

“Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.” Andy said.

“Because it was a church, we thought we’d go for that churchy feel and vibe,” Mitch said. “Then we just googled really cool nuns and we came up with this nun, Sister Mary Louise, who was an advocate for gay rights and supported people with disabilities.”

Keeping a positive attitude, Andy said the extended lockdown restrictions would come with a silver lining.

“We get to test out our point-of-sale system and we get to run everything and make sure it’s all working… It’s not ideal that we ordered stock thinking we’d be open. We’ve got a fridge full of milk and a fridge full of food, but we’ll make do. We’ll survive.”

“It’s not how we wanted to open, but we’re open! We finally did it,” Mitch said.